Saltalamacchia's 4-RBI game has Tigers heading home 2-0

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Jose Fernandez (16) of the Miami Marlins reacts after giving up a two-run home run to Jarrod Saltalamacchia of the Detroit Tigers during the second inning.

Miami — There was a lot of talk through the spring about why the Tigers would want to keep Jarrod Saltalamacchia over Bryan Holaday as the backup catcher and the answer always was, because Salty is a switch-hitter and the Tigers needed more left-handed thump.

It didn’t take long for him to validate the Tigers’ thought process.

Facing his former team, the team that unceremoniously released him early last season and is still paying $7.5 million of his salary, Saltalamacchia hit a two-run home run off Jose Fernandez and knocked in four runs in the Tigers 7-3 win over the Marlins Wednesday.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 7, Marlins 3

“It's one of those things,” he said. “I've kind of turned the page. There are a lot of guys over there I like and enjoy being around. It was sad to leave them, but it's better that we won. That's the main thing. 

“I've moved on. I'm playing here now and my job is to help this team win.”

Fernandez came into the game with a 17-0 record at Marlins Park and his high-90s heat and swing-and-miss slider were oppressive at times. He struck out 13 in 5⅔ innings. 

He had thrown three fastballs by Saltalamacchia in the second inning when he spun a slider.

"Fernandez has great stuff, obviously,” Saltalamacchia said. “He hung a slider and I was able to do something with it. Anytime you can get a two-run lead on a pitcher like that, that's sweet. It's gets things moving.”

Anibal Sanchez pitched five shutout innings before giving up a walk and a double in the sixth. Both of those runs scored. But it was a positive first start for Sanchez, after making just two starts in spring training.

“Sanchez was very good,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He did what we think he’s capable of doing on a regular basis, which is change speeds, change his pitches, move the ball round, get movement on all his pitches. He’s very tough when he does that.”

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The Tigers chased Fernandez in the top of the sixth. Singles by Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera set the table for a a clutch two-out, two-strike RBI double by Nick Castellanos.

Saltalamacchia greeted reliever Dustin McGowan with a two-run double to make it 5-0. It was his first four-RBI game since he was with Boston in 2013. 

“I’m sure it felt good for him,” Ausmus said. “I remember I hit a home run with the Padres against the Rockies after they traded me. It’s gratifying. But Salty is veteran enough to know it’s also part of the game.”

Still, the way things ended for him in Miami wasn’t pleasant. He signed a $21 million contract the year before and early in the season, just three days after the birth of his son, he was notified of his release. 

“There was a lot of surprise,” he said. “There was that side of it, but that had nothing to do with the guys that are over there. It’s got nothing to do with the coaching staff that was over there. It is a business. I understand that. So, I’ve got a great family at home and I was able to move on pretty easily.”

The game did not end without some drama, though, even after Victor Martinez extended the lead with his second pinch-hit home run in two days

After Drew VerHagen, Justin Wilson and Mark Lowe pitched scoreless innings out of the pen, Logan Kensing started the ninth with a 7-2 lead. 

He allowed a double, two singles and a run, leaving the game with two on and two out and a four-run lead. With Marlins slugger on deck representing the tying run, closer Francisco Rodriguez was summoned to face Christian Yelich.

He walked him to load the bases for Stanton. Rodriguez, who blew a three-run lead in the ninth on Tuesday, went to work. He struck out Stanton with a sweeping slider.

“He threw two nasty sliders,” Saltalamacchia said. “He called me out to the mound (when the count was 1-2) and asked what I wanted. I told him changeup. He said, 'I got a slider.' 

“And I said, ‘OK, perfect’... He threw a really good slider and sealed the deal.”

The sigh of relief, from Rodriguez to Ausmus and all points in between, was nearly audible.

“That’s not really how you want to draw it up,” Ausmus said. “But I was kind of happy we got him back on the horse. He’s done it many times, but he’s wearing a different uniform now and there are some expectations. It was good to get him back out there and get that first save out of the way.”

Twitter @cmccosky